Sunday, February 1, 2009

Khlongs near Surat Thani

When we looked for some information for our trip to Khao Sok at the Tourism Authority office in Surat Thani, I picked one brochure which advertised an Eco-Tour through the canals in the delta of the Tapi river. Though it was in Thai, I could notice that one stop would be at an old temple, and I simply love temple ruins. Sadly I lost that brochure later on.

So on our next trip to Surat Thani, I suggested to check out the TAT office again to do that trip. Strangely neither the clerk there knew about this tour, nor did it have that brochure anymore. It however had two other offers of a boat tour, and we then did one of that. While it had no temple ruins, it was nevertheless fun and interesting. I now suspect that the old temple was in fact at Khao Phra Anon (เขาพระอานนท์) in neighboring Phunphin district, so this would have been a much longer tour than the one we did.

The day we did the trip it was quite cloudy with a thunderstorm lingering, but it stayed dry during the whole trip taking about 2 hours. The clouds had the advantage that it was not that hot, however within the canals it was so dark that most of my photos got blurred - the boat moving to fast with the longer exposure needed. So sadly no photo of the nipa palms which grow along the canals.

The tour started at the river bank opposite Ko Lamphu, and the first stop was at a river house selling community products. Though this was advertised in the brochure as an OTOP (One Tambon One Product) shop, and also the boat driver called it OTOP, the sign inside does call it simply "Community Manufacturing Product" (ศูนย์ผลิตภัณฑ์ชุมชน). Though just few years old, OTOP has become the synonym for any locally marketed products.

The shop was still at a major river branch, after that it went into the narrow canals. To make sure one does not loose the orientation, there are even "road signs" at each of the intersections. Not sure if these signs are only put in the area close to the town, or if all the canals within the delta have such signs. The canals are usually bordered with palms, which at some parts get so dense that it's rather dark in the narrow canal. Along the tour there were several other attractions, though we did not stop at any.

At first we passed the temple Wat Bang Bai Mai, the central temple of the subdistrict with the same name. We did not stop there as it is not really a special temple, however I noticed on the map in the brochure that right next to the temple it has the office of the subdistrict administration, so I went there a few days later to take a photo of that office building, and of course also of the temple.

Another attraction is a wooden house more than 100 years old, titled "บ้านโบราณ" (Ban Boran), which however passing from the canal did not look anything impressive.

There was one final stop at a home where a vinegar was produced from the juice of the nipa palm, and it was planned to show the production of this. However we failed to find the farmer who would have showed his product, so we returned to the boat. The last part of the tour went past a settlement within the river, which looks quite different from so close than from the town at the other side of the river.

As I had my GPS tracking device with me, the map below shows exactly where we went, within the accuracy of GPS of course.

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